Penrith sign Tigers back Kepaoa as cover for May

Scott Bailey |

Asu Kepaoa has left the Tigers and will be a Panther for the rest of this season and in 2025.
Asu Kepaoa has left the Tigers and will be a Panther for the rest of this season and in 2025.

Wests Tigers outside back Asu Kepaoa has made an immediate switch to Penrith as they search for cover for the stood-down Taylan May.

The Panthers signed Kepaoa to an 18-month deal on Wednesday and he will be available for selection from next week.

The move comes as part of a multi-club switch, with the three-time defending premiers releasing forward Ativalu Lisati to Melbourne for the rest of 2024 and all of 2025.

Kepaoa’s signing comes as the Tigers continue to ease salary cap pressure and begin future planning, and comes at a valuable time for the Panthers.

May’s future with the club remains in serious doubt, with the Samoa international subject to the NRL’s no-fault stand-down policy as he fights domestic violence charges.

The 22-year-old fronted the Penrith board on Tuesday with four lawyers by his side to answer to a show-cause notice, as the Panthers consider tearing up his contract.

AAP has been told settlement figures were discussed for May’s immediate exit, but as of yet no decision has been reached.

May signed a two-year deal worth close to $1.2 million in March, but there is every chance he could be out the door before that even begins.

The current domestic-violence charges are not part of the show-cause notice issued by Penrith, which is believed to instead feature several other alleged indiscretions in recent years.

Some, but not all, relate to alleged matters that have come about since May signed the new contract.

Even if May does keep his contract he will be unable to play again until his court case is finalised, with the next hearing set down for March 2025.

Taylan May.
Taylan May arrives at BlueBet Stadium to face Canterbury in round 10, his most recent NRL match. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

Penrith already have some coverage in their backline, with Paul Alamoti impressing in recent weeks since replacing May at centre.

The club also have high hopes for brothers Jesse and Casey McLean, who were this week both named in the NSW U19 State of Origin side.

But Kepaoa will give the Panthers further depth, while also being able to be used in a bench or second-row role if needed.

Moved from the Sydney Roosters in 2020 to accommodate Sonny Bill Williams’ NRL return, Kepaoa scored 13 tries in 43 games for Wests Tigers.

The New Zealander has featured only three times this year however, with his most recent first-grade match being in the back row against the Dolphins last month.